(1311-04-25) Odd Hobbies
Summary: Pies and politics at Philo’s place.
RL Date: 25/04/1311
Related: Other scenes with these characters.
philomene raphael 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port

In contrast to the gaily painted yellow door with its fragrant pots of vibrant green herbs which guard either side, the interior of this house is austere to the point of severe. The whitewashed walls bear little to no decoration, if one precludes the single, almost full length mirror in the main room, and the tiny, framed pencil sketch of a pair of horses beside the door. The front door enters directly into a spartan salon, equipped with a single dark leather sofa and a comfortable chair in front of the fire, where a square section of the rugged brown carpet has been stripped away to facilitate drying out firewood or cleaning out the grate with minimal upkeep.

To one side of the room, an opening leads through to an equally minimalist dining room, containing no more than half a dozen stiff backed wooden chairs and a table that could comfortably fit only four of them, and from there a door leads to the small kitchen and on to simple quarters for a single servant. On the other, a plain staircase leads upwards, the carpet laid in a strip down the centre, with bare, unpolished floorboards visible to either side, to a pair of small bedrooms and a cramped privy. Where furniture has been placed, it is mismatched and looks more as though it's been bought and dumped in the closest available spot than that any sort of thought to interior design has been paid.

In the warm weather that the spring has brought with it the coolness of this small, neat little house is really rather welcome. Answering Raphael's initial knock on the door, after an irascible demand shouted out to establish who it is, is the shirt-sleeved form of Philomène de Chalasse. She looks him up and down with a raised eyebrow, steps aside, not bothering to even attempt to disguise the discomfort of her leg within her own four walls, and gestures to the sofa and chair beside the fireplace. "I suppose you'd better come in, then. I've got a pot of tea on the go if you want one." The door is closed again behind him and she limps heavily over to what must be her comfortable chair, clearing together a selection of papers with tiny columns of numbers on them and setting it on her chair's arm, before folding one leg up beneath herself and finally giving him the courtesy of her attention.

"I suppose I better had," Raphael agrees, moving in and taking a seat. He has a small sack in one hand, plain cloth, filled with what looks like one or more items with a certain weight to them. "Yes, I will have tea," he agrees, helping himself to the seat she indicated. "Possibly I am interrupting your work, but I have brought a gift."

Philomène arches a wary brow at that, reaching forward to claim the teapot from the table she'd been working on and a fresh cup from a half dozen mismatched ones stacked higgledy-piggledy on the tea tray. Flipping the new cup over and setting it down, she asks as she pours, "A gift? In aid of what?" There's a moment where she narrows her eyes, trying to work out the angle from which he'd want to bring a gift and what he wants, then she briefly closes her eyes, sets down the teapot, and nudges the fresh cup of tea over. No milk or honey is even offered. "I'm sorry," she finally admits, looking irritated more than apologetic. "I mean welcome to my home. You're very kind. I'm… not quite myself this morning."

"In aid of balance," Raphael replies. "When we last met, you told me that you had given some things up. So does it not follow that you should get something, too?" His expression says that perhaps they both know that this is not how the world works, but that they also both know that the world works on the back of many convenient fictions. "Anyway, it is very little." He sets his packet on the table, rearranging the contents slightly. There seem to be three of something inside. But they are briefly neglected as he accepts the cup of tea. He does not ask for milk or honey. "You are good to receive me." He tries the tea, which thankfully is not too hot to drink, and pauses a moment to savor the brew before setting it down again and opening the sack. Inside there are three small bundles tied in thin cloth for a little padding. One of these Raphael unfastens, to show inside a humble-looking hand-raised pie, tall and golden brown on the outside.

Philomène claims her own tea, taking a long sip from it as she eyes this unveiling. Normal people would just say thank you. Philomène is not a normal person, clearly. "Don't tell me you bake?" she queries in disbelief as she lowers her cup, lips twisting a little to the side in an amused smirk. "I'd never have thought it. Any other odd hobbies I ought to know about?"

"I do not," Raphael corrects. "But I know someone who does, a woman called Tilda who lives on a back street behind the market square. She is a baker's wife, but," Raphael considers this the crucial point, "She is the daughter of a butcher. It is my opinion that she still makes the best coffin pies in the city as a result. Pork, chicken, and venison," he says, indicating each. "If you have had a long day, you might warm one for supper." He leaves them there and sits back with his tea. "My hobby is woodcarving, what is yours? Besides walking and castigating the useless, that is."

Philomène's smile turns to something more genuine. "Well, those are my main hobbies, of course. Castigating the useless being my primary one. I ride, too," she points out. "And occasionally put a few stitches into a bit of cloth." This one has to assume is an understatement if the fine embroidery on her riding jacket, currently slung over the back of her chair rather than being worn, is to be believed. "Thank you," she adds finally, giving a nod to the pies. "That's… oddly thoughtful. I'll have to hide them away, mind, or Leda and Geneviève will have them all gobbled up before the morning."

Raphael does eye this riding jacket, and the work on it, then looks back to his host. "Hospitality has its dangers," He observes, and drinks from his cup. "But if you do not like them, at least you have victims to feed them to." An upside in everything. "I was never one of the novices with a talent for cooking, but I have some luck at finding out who does have it."

"I'm sure there's some sort of joke about whipped cream in there somewhere, but I'm too damn tired to make it work," Philomène confesses, folding both hands around her teacup. "What do you carve?" She pauses, then holds up one hand. "Wait, if it's something I'm likely to have found strewn around my house after one of the Orchis ladies' parties here, I take it back and probably don't want to know."

Raphael laughs anyway a the idea of the joke. "Various things," he says. "In the salon I have been working on a chain carved of one piece of wood. But in the meantime I made a couple of wooden soldiers for Lady Aurore's boy. He was in need of reinforcements." He sips the tea again. "But you're right: whipped cream and beaten eggs ought to be a staple of our salon. Those in my canon already do plenty of peeling of fruit when they are young."

Again Philomène smiles. She really can't be feeling herself today. "I have a lot of time for Aurore. She's one of the good ones. If her boy grows up with her balls, he'll achieve anything he puts his mind to. And if today that's wooden soldiers and in a few years it's real life ones, all the better."

"I agree," Raphael replies. "She is sharp-minded and congenial as well. I hope her son will be as clever. I have seen that she is teaching him to think, which is a gift greater than most give their children." He holds his cup in his hands. "What do you think of the rumors about her?"

"If I were in her position I'd cultivate them," Philomène muses, sipping from her tea thoughtfully. "I'm not saying that she necessarily does, but it never hurts to let the gossips warn people about crossing you, does it? It keeps the worst of the idiots at bay. Mind, I also think that if she'd murdered her old man she'd have more sense than to get caught."

Raphael seems pleased by this answer. "I hope that it does keep them at bay," he agrees. "She seems more than competent enough to run her household's affairs without needing to remarry, should she not wish it. Though I imagine there may be some hardship on her son." He lets his eyes fall on the embroidered jacket while he considers this. "Still, there is hardship on every son. And every daughter."

"Oh, not all of them, surely," Philomène argues, more for the sake of arguing than with any real vehemence. She settles back comfortably in her chair, balancing the cup on the worn upholstery of its arm so she can set about absently rolling up her sleeves. "There are dozens of them out there who could do with a good dose of hardship to give them a bloody grip."

Raphael takes time to think this over, drinking the tea. "There are different types of hardship," he says. "Sometimes the people who are most coddled, most fortunate in money, and power, and comfort, have the greatest cavity inside, and there are times when that must be hardship as well." But maybe he too is only arguing for the sake of arguing.

"They say money doesn't buy happiness, but I'd rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable," Philomène counters easily, switching to the other sleeve to unbutton and begin folding up, methodically, one cuff width at a time. "But then we get on to defining happiness and it all gets a bit maudlin and unnecessary… would you like a biscuit? Brigitte might have some if we ask nicely?"

"Yes, there is no particular gift in poverty, most of the time," Raphael agrees. "Or so it seems to me, at least. I have not tasted the worst of it." At the offer, he shakes his head. "No, not for me, but please don't let me stop you. Though I doubt you are the type to let anyone stop her."

"I'd like to think I'm not," Philomène agrees, lips quirking into a wry smile. "But then I've worked very hard to get that reputation." She shakes her head. "But no, I'm not a big biscuit fan. I just felt I ought to be polite and offer. Given that I can't give you women to kneel and offer you tea, or gentlemen to tie to your obscene contraptions and beat as I'm sure you'd prefer, I thought a biscuit might be the next best thing." She pauses, meeting his eye squarely. "I'm pleased you've come to visit, though. You're very welcome here, you know. Possibly not in the evenings when the ladies are in full swing and I make myself scarce, but… no, no, perhaps you'd be welcome in the evenings, too. My house guests are indiscriminately welcoming, it's true."

"Very polite," Raphael agrees dryly. "And you should not worry for what you lack," he says, continuing a note of humor that acknowledges he hardly has the place to condescend to nobles about what they should and should not worry about. "No one wants to eat at his neighbor's the same dinner he has been eating at home." He sips his tea. "That is very kind of you." He means the last offer. "Though overall I try not to let it get out that there are some nobles' at whose home I call for free, while others pay. Which means, if I call on you more than once, there may be those who assume you are a patron. And I will likely not say either way to those who ask. Would that inconvenience you?"

Philomène snorts at that, clearly tickled. "If there are people who watch my door, the comings and goings of a single courtesan are hardly going to raise any more eyebrows than the midget or the donkey did," she points out with an easy smile, that smile freezing in place for a split second as she adjusts her leg in front of her with both hands, then takes up her tea again. "Besides, if they know me well enough to watch my door, I'm sure they know me well enough to know that you're not my type."

"Quite true!" Raphael says cheerfully. The courtesans of Orchis House work such good humor that it lasts long after the event, it seems. "Then there is no need for me to concern myself with that." He sips on his tea, glancing at the leg but saying nothing on it. "And what is the door-watchers' understanding of your type? The merry house of Orchis?"

"Let the Orchis entertain themselves however they like, I think my type is more like a nice cup of tea and a nap these days," Philomène confesses, his cheer infectious enough to have her grinning openly. "Maybe a nice set of fluffy slippers? You called it, I think," she notes, pointing a slender finger towards him, "when you said I didn't seem the type for any of the canons offered here. I mean, sure, I can appreciate the human frame, and it's always pleasant to see a good firm backside in a set of tight breeches, but it doesn't hold a candle to a cold beer on a warm day, or a roaring fire when it's snowing outside."

Raphael chuckles at Philomène's candor. "An honorable answer," he says, "If relatively rare in this land. But not, perhaps, in others," he adds, struck by a certain thought. "I met the ambassador from Eire the other day. Someone sent the poor thing toward the Night Court and she chose our salon at random to inspect of an evening."

"Oh good grief," Philomène laughs, leaning back with her cup in hand. "Is the poor thing now mentally scarred for life, or did you find yourself a new convert? Yours is certainly a polarising canon. I can't imagine you get a lot of just passing trade, you know, just thought they'd pop in for a quick beating, that sort of thing. So either she'll never be seen again or you'll see her every night now."

"Possibly scarred," Raphael jokes. "So I apologize for the coming war with Eire." He of course does not mean that. "She did not stay long. I hope she found her way to the Glycine or the Lis d'Or soon after and not to the first boat back to her island." He sips from his tea. "But really, what is this fashion lately for barely-grown ambassadors?”

"I've assuming it's the new trend to send your son or daughter off to diplome where those of us from my generation spent a season at war instead," Philomène suggests thoughtfully. "There's less appetite for soldiery these days. Likely we've done too good a job keeping back the invading hordes, so the people think little of their safety and the blood spilt to protect it. So the new fashion is to send your children to talk the foreigners to death instead."

"It leaves me wondering whether they are seeking matches as well. Since we have big marriages to Bhodistan and Khebbel-im-Akkad approaching. What do you think of all these marriages to foreign houses at once? I admit I have let my political understanding lapse while I was out of the city." His gaze stays on her, since on political matters even otherwise honest people sometimes say one thing with words and another with expressions.

Philomène runs her tongue over her teeth as she considers how best to phrase her reply. "If I'm honest with you? I don't like it," she states frankly, content to meet his eye steadily with her grey-blue gaze. "I don't see a great deal of merit in wasting good d'Angeline bloodlines on foreign brides. If you want a trade deal, arrange a fucking trade deal, you know? If you want an exotic lover, take an exotic lover, but don't introduce your foreign spouse and expect us to be impressed. To me all you're saying is that you couldn't arrange a decent d'Angeline arrangement and had to go out to some other forsaken country to find somebody who'd accept your match."

Raphael doesn't show his opinion clearly one way or the other. But not being a noble, it may well be that he has no clear opinion to show. "You think it weakens the houses who choose it?" he asks. "Why do you suppose they do? Just for trade? I'm not sure either of the couples know one another well enough for it to be a matter of passion."

"I think it weakens us as a nation, not just the house who chooses it," Philomène clarifies, lifting a shoulder in a shrug. "Why do I think they do? A combination of reasons. Either they're dazzled by foreign titles, which the foreign types seem to give out like candy, or they like the novelty of a foreigner on their arm, or they just don't understand how they're undermining their own reputations as a house when their head's turned by a bit of skirt in a silk sari."

"I think it impressive, when they are so much more restrictive in the ways of love, that they should breed so bountifully," Raphael says. "There seem a lot of princes and princesses of the blood let to roam far from home, after all." He sets his cup down, eyes narrowing as though to see the matter more clearly. "Could there be tensions to which most of us are not privy? Are there soldiers lining up on an important border somewhere?"

"It wouldn't hurt if there were," Philomène suggests carefully. "It'd certainly prompt a lot more appreciation for the people who fight to keep our borders safe, wouldn't it? Too much peace is bad for us. We get complacent."

Raphael nods, but it is a nod that he has heard, not necessarily that he agrees. "I know nothing of war," he admits. "In a salon, we have strategy, but that is as close as we ever come."

"War wouldn't suit you," insists the Chalasse. "You're all about precision and control and manipulation. War is about riding hard at the enemy and letting rage take over." She pauses, then offers a smirk. "Well, for the soldiers it is. Maybe we could stand more officers like you and your lot."

"That is fair enough," Raphael allows, smiling. "If they trained us in wanton rage, I'd probably have been hanged by now. But I am past the years where anyone is likely to come pressing me into service, unless a war were to go very badly indeed." He stands. "Well, I have taken enough of your time for one afternoon. I'd advise keeping those wrapped until you go to warm them lest they spring a leak," he says, indicating the pies.

Philomène winces in preparation as she moves to rise, expecting the pain a second or so before she actually feels it. "Thank you, Raphael," she offers simply, once she's taken a moment to steady her breathing. A hand is offered. "Yours has been very welcome company today. And the pies, of course."

"I'm glad to hear it," Raphael says, sounding genuine in that. He clasps the hand he's given warmly. "Don't forget to do something pleasant for yourself now and again," he advises further. "I think distraction is a medicine for many ills." He smiles and moves to see himself out.

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